Learning how to be smarter and more efficient about reducing our energy consumption is on the minds of everyone this week. The smart grid, with its improved efficiency and performance, is helping consumers conserve energy and save money every day. To take full advantage of a modern electric grid, however, people need to understand what those opportunities are.  

The “Power Over Energy” energy literacy initiative, which the Department joined this week, is educating, motivating and empowering consumers to make smart decisions about how they use electricity, in part by sharing key statistics that illustrate the large opportunities for improvement in the near term. For example, did you know that if the electric grid was just 5 percent more efficient, the reduction in greenhouse gases would be equivalent to taking 53 million cars off the road? The organization, which is supported by business, nonprofits, and government agencies with a shared desire to help consumers understand the impacts of their own energy use, is also running a social media campaign that, to date, has reached more than 7 million consumers.

As the saying goes, “knowledge is power.”  Sharing information about the Recovery Act-funded Smart Grid Investment Grant projects is also helping consumers, local and state governments, regulators, industry and others better understand the benefits of grid modernization. Over the past year, DOE has held a series of peer-to-peer smart grid workshops to help utilities share information and best practices to drive successful smart grid deployments, with customer engagement as a primary focus. One common finding that emerged from the meetings is the importance of providing customers with actionable information. The workshops have also highlighted the need for utilities to effectively communicate the benefits of smart grid technologies to customers. DOE plans to develop a best practices guide that will provide utilities with successful approaches to customer engagement. 

Meanwhile, DOE is also leading the development of a voluntary code of conduct to ensure the privacy of customer data enabled by smart grid technologies. The code will establish common practices that protect the access, use, and sharing of customers’ electricity usage and related data. The first stakeholder meeting was held in February, with additional meetings to be held over the next six months.    All of these activities will help customers understand the potential of the smart grid and make tangible, powerful changes in their energy lives.

Also happening this week, Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman will join the CEOs of Con Edison and Euroheat and Power today for a discussion of how we can “Think National But Power Local” at the New York Times Energy for Tomorrow Conference on sustainable cities. The conference will be streamed live throughout the day or you can follow on Twitter (the handle is @NYTenergy and the event hashtag is #energyideas).

Ready to learn more? Watch energy.gov next week for more on grid modernization. For additional information about national efforts to modernize the electric grid, visit the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s website and smartgrid.gov.  

Eric Lightner is Director of the Federal Smart Grid Task Force in the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.